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The stamp man’s complaint

Janos was a good and dutiful man. He had a small house with a neat little garden plot overlooking the railway station.  He kept his petite wife well supplied with money for groceries, flowers, and other necessities.  And every morning without fail, he boarded the 7:10 into the center of the city, to report for work at the Bureau for Auxilliary Affairs, precisely at 8:00 AM.  His record was unblemished, save for the time he choked on a digestive biscuit and had to be taken to the clinic for treatment. He was 2 hours late that morning; it is possibly the reason he was passed over for promotion yet again.

Which is a damn shame, really. His job was to approve paperwork as it passed through his station. He was a stamp man, and possibly the best in his section, the Department of Supplemental Approval. The official rate of passage of forms to be approved through his station was 30/hr; he himself estimated it at more than 100. Theeoretically, he could mark any given paper with the bright red Returned fo Further Evaluation stamp, rather than the bright green A, but that slowed things down considerably, as he would have to fill out the proper form, and hand carry it along with the Returned paper down the hall to the Department of Approval Appeals. Janos considered this a waste of valuable time, as there was no one ever there. One dropped the papers ino a slot marked IN, and they disappeared. Meanwhile, paper at one’s own station was piling up relentlessly. Over the years, he had gradually come to simply approve everything that came through. That had been an immense relief, for it meant he no longer had to read the papers as they came through; indeed, truth be told, he had forgotten the criteria for approval, or even the nature of the forms themselves. Perhaps that accounted for his legendary efficiency. Janos’ days passed smoothly and inevitably. He was happy, and his superiors were happy. Though not so happy as to promote him.

And so, in the course of events, came this particular day, which to all appearances differed not one whit from any other day.  It was also a day Janos would regret for the rest of his life.  For it was the day he glaanced down at a form before stamping it.  He read,

1 ib butter (unsalted)
tea (Elina’s favorite)

It was, truthfully, not what he expected. True, he was no longer sure what the paperwork was about, but this seemed unlikely. With a hint of a tremor, he reached over to the top of the pile to his left, the already approved pile, and nervously looked at the top, most recently approved paper.

Dearest Sylvia,
I can no longer be responsible for the fire in my heart. I dream constantly of your warm white breasts, the razor-like nipples piercing…

He had read enough. A cold hand gripped his heart. It must have been a quarter hour before he slowly returned his attention to the pile. With each paper, each word, his heart sank further into his shoes.

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